Navan Cycling Initiative welcomes the opportunity to provide a submission on the next Road Safety Plan for County Meath
This submission is provided by Navan Cycling Initiative (NCI), a non-profit organisation representing the residents of Navan Municipal District, whose objective is to make cycling safe, enjoyable and convenient. NCI welcomes the opportunity to provide a submission on the next Road Safety Plan for County Meath for the period 2021 to 2030.
Over the last number of years we have seen significant changes in how people use our roads. From pedestrians to cyclists, the amount of Vulnerable Road Users on our roads has vastly increased alongside motor vehicles. A Road Safety Plan is of the upmost importance to all road users and as such the following key issues should be addressed in order to make the road safer for all.
Enforcement is crucial to the overall success of a road safety plan. It is imperative that the necessary resources for policing of our roads are provided and that all road traffic infractions are punished in line with legislation. Increased enforcement by the An Garda Siochana and the presence of Garda Traffic Units will be key in making our roads safer.
In previous strategy documents, road safety was focused on the dominant mode of transport, motor vehicles, and the transport mix was evolving slowly.
Figure 1 – Transport Trends, Dept of Transport (2017)
Budgets for active travel have increased radically, and it follows that the transport mix will change accordingly. Other factors, such as climate change, COVID response and electric vehicles will also contribute to increased change and increased uncertainty.
In our view, it is critical to recognise these changing circumstances, and ensure that the strategy can respond and evolve during the 2021-2030 period, rather than being static and prescriptive. Solutions appropriate for 2021 are unlikely to be appropriate for 2030.
Road Safety Awareness
The Road Safety Officer should continue to work closely with the Road Safety Authority, An Garda Síochána and Emergency Services on all road safety awareness issues to ensure the delivery of road safety education programmes and establish a Road Safety Working Together Group. Examples of how to create this awareness could include:
- Organise a series of local events aimed at raising awareness of road safety during Road Safety Week
- Safe passing awareness campaign in conjunction with roll out of signs
- Awareness campaign on use of seatbelts on school buses
Targeted Education Programmes
Where data and research indicate particular road safety issues, the RSA needs to develop specific messaging for different groups (across age, gender, class, ethnicity, locality, etc) with stories told in their own words. Meath County Council could, for instance, do this through their Healthy Ireland / Local Community Development Committees. But a particular opportunity for further education and updating of drivers on road safety issues occurs during the times of mandatory vehicle NCT testing. It is a chance to put drivers through a form of ‘revision’ testing or at the least reminder points, while they await the results of their NCT. NCI would also like to see taxi drivers undergo a Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) test.
Road Safety in Schools
The Road Safety Officer should work closely with parents and teachers in schools to deliver effective road safety education awareness and training. Actions should include:
- Assist schools with developing a Travel Plan and setting up a School Walking/Cycling Bus as per to encourage safe walking and cycling to school. Navan Cycling Initiative can help with this.
- Implement an annual “Back to School” campaign, encouraging safe active travel
- Develop a standardised road safety cycling training proficiency programme for children and deliver this programme to as many schools as possible
- Develop a standardised guide to reducing road safety school gate risks. Provide funding and implantation guidance for school streets.
AXA Road Show
Meath County Council should hold the AXA Road Show annually for Secondary School students. This aim of the road show is to highlight the dangers of irresponsible and reckless driving to Senior Cycle Students, many of whom may already be driving. The hard-hitting road safety message was delivered through drama and aimed to change attitudes and the mindset of those attending.
National Bike Week
Meath County Council should hold an annual series of events during National Bike Week including a schools’ art competition and a cycling event along to help promote safe cycling. Navan Cycling Initiative are more than happy to collaborate on such events.
Vulnerable Road Users
In conjunction with the RSA, the Road Safety Officer should work closely with high risk vulnerable road user groups such as children, the elderly, pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists on issues surrounding on road safety awareness, education campaigns and good road safety practices. Examples include Active Retirement talks, school talks and advertising campaigns. Further emphasis on the need for motorists to always be on the lookout for vulnerable road users is to be encouraged, as well as the need to be especially cautious around schools and residential areas where children may run out onto the road unexpectedly.
The roads are for all to use. Too often there is a misconception that motor vehicles have a right over other road users, when in fact the opposite is true. The Design Manual for Urban Roads and Streets states that pedestrians have priority on Irish streets and roads, followed by cyclists, public transport users, and finally private vehicles. This hierarchy needs to be highlighted more.
With a big increase in the number of vulnerable road users (VRUs) out waking and cycling on our roads, now more than ever it is vital that existing laws and protection measures are highlighted and strongly enforced in order to make the roads safer for all. A recent report entitled ‘Analysis of serious injury collisions and serious injuries on Irish roads (2014-2017)’ (link here) showed that the number of VRUs involved in serious injuries have been rapidly increasing. It should be noted that the report is only available up to 2017, and that in more recent years the number of VRUs has increased even further, especially with the onset of the Covid pandemic.
Speeding is noted as one of the main causes of road traffic deaths and collisions. Despite significant awareness campaigns around the issue, speeding remains one of the biggest factors in making our roads more dangerous. Many roads located around County Meath are notorious for excessive speeding and urgently need more enforcement of existing speed limits. Examples include the N51 Navan-Slane Road; the R152 Duleek / Kilmoon Cross road; the R162 Nobber Road; the N51 Athboy; the R158 Summerhill Road.
More speed cameras and checkpoints are needed on roads, as well as a full review of all existing speed limits around the county to enhance Road Safety. A default 30kph speed limit in all urban areas – which is the standard in number of European countries – specifically in areas with schools and strong concentration of children, should also be introduced across county Meath. Navan Cycling Initiative (NCI) welcomes the introduction of a 30kph speed limit on part of the Athlumney to Trim Road Cycle and Pedestrian Scheme and the upcoming review of speed limits in housing estates but more needs to be done.
We also need a suite of lower ‘fit for purpose’ speed limits on many of our rural roads, and not a blanket 80kph limit. Navan Cycling Initiative recommends consideration of a new ‘Rothar Road’ designation (minor rural roads way-marked for cyclists) where the speed limit is tailored to the safety of all potential users, and where people on foot and on bikes are ‘expected and respected’. See here for more: https://cyclist.ie/ruralvision/.
Dangerous Overtaking of Cyclists
The ‘Dangerous Overtaking of Cyclists’ law came into effect in November 2019 and has given some increased protection for cyclists on our roads. Motorists must maintain a minimum passing distances of 1.5 metres on roads with a speed limit of 50kph or higher and 1 metre on roads with a speed limit under 50kph. However, more education and emphasis on this law is needed to ensure all road users are fully aware of it, and it should specifically highlighted in the Road Safety Plan. Advertising campaigns (such as on social media, on the back of local buses, bus stops or other signage, or on local council vehicles, as we’ve seen in other County Councils) highlighting the need for 1.5 metres of space when overtaking a cyclist would further help to get the message out there.
The rollout of new signage highlighting the ‘Dangerous Overtaking of Cyclists’ law is also under way in County Meath. The signage is to be erected on roads around the county highlighting the need to leave space to make it safer for cyclists on our roads. NCI would like to see more of these signs introduced over the following years.
Incidents involving the ‘Dangerous Overtaking of Cyclists’ mentioned above are often reported to the Gardai by physically having to visit local stations to supply video evidence. However, the process can be laborious and quite often a frustrating experience. This law needs to be strengthened through the use of technology, specifically an online web portal in which footage can be uploaded, which is common in other jurisdictions, e.g. London’s Metropolitan Police. This technology allows all road users to report dangerous overtaking offences via the dedicated online portal, from where the footage can be triaged by a dedicated team and sent for prosecution as deemed appropriate. The reporting system as it stands in Ireland needs to be completely updated.
Illegal parking is a big problem in towns across county Meath. In Navan alone, there are over 3,500 car parking spaces, yet on a daily basis illegally-parked cars can be seen around the town. Notably bad areas include Market Square, Abbey Road, Kennedy Road and outside Johnstown Shopping Centre. Illegal parking is chronic on paths, double yellow lines, bike lanes, loading bays and disabled parking spaces, which creates obstacles and dangerous situations for pedestrians and other road users. The enforcement of parking laws is particular concerning as wardens only regularly work on a weekly basis, approximately between the hours of 9-5pm. This means that at the weekend illegal parking is even bigger issue as there is effectively no enforcement whatsoever. NCI calls for the enforcement of illegal parking on a full-time daily basis. Better communication with An Garda Siochana is also required currently there is no method to report illegally parked vehicles.
Meath County Council should encourage schools and parents to develop and promote road safety and active travel modes (walking and cycling) through sustainable travel plans while working with the Green Schools Programme and other strategies that encourage responsible safe travel.
By promoting these sustainable transport modes, schools will also improve pupils’ safety, health and fitness. The journey to school is an ideal way for children to take part in regular physical activity, to interact with their peers, and to develop the road sense children need as pedestrians and cyclists. Alternative modes of transport also improve children’s alertness. The schools will also lessen their overall impact on the environment, by reducing emissions and pollution.
Measurement & Monitoring
As in all systems approaches, good data is a critical baseline information point to enable clear analysis of the issues arising. Throughout the last road safety strategy the ready availability of good-quality data, on all aspects of road incidents, has been found wanting. The latest detailed analysis on Serious Injuries available now in early 2021, is from 2017.
Figure 2 – Analysis of Road Traffic Accidents, SWOV 2017
Detailed, timely data analysis enables focused policy adjustments and targeted safety measures based on objective criteria. NCI calls for a quarterly reporting schedule, and to ensure that data is available within three months of an incident.
The Public Participation Network (PPN) exists to allow the public to engage with County Councils. This allows for all perspectives to engage, on an ongoing basis. This is especially important for smaller groups, whose voice may not be represented in other forums. NCI calls for ongoing and regular engagement with the Meath PPN to ensure that all residents can engage on road safety topics, and ensure that their particular needs are met.
Planning & Design
Changes to the public realm are made through county and municipal plans, part 8 plans, and from councillors. In each of these cases, it is critical that the road safety perspective and best practices are considered and applied. In practical terms, this means submissions should be made by the Road Safety Officer for planning applications. This will ensure that the latest best-practice is applied to all future designs, so that the potential for incidents is minimised.
Navan Cycling Initiative